My Kenyan Christmas

January 8, 2012
By , Jamesville, NY
Let me tell you the story about my childhood. My childhood was funny, terrible, and sometimes painful. I come from the Nyanza province in western Kenya. I grew up in Lwala. My Kenyan tribe is the Luo tribe. A tribe in Kenya is a group of people who speak the same language and are descendants of the same fore fathers. During Christmas, people in Lwala eat foods like pilau, basically a mixture of rice and beef except it’s cooked the African way (which involves spices like curry powder, coriander, cardamom). Yumm!

I like to remember a Christmas when I was 11, and everybody was happy and enjoying the feel of the cool, summer breeze. Unlike in America where Christmas arrives in winter, in Kenya, it is always summer. So this special day arrives with sun and warmth (not snowflakes and bitter cold). That Christmas day, the sun was so strong I could feel it into my ribs, and it was shining its golden rays over Lwala. That sun reflected the happiness I felt inside. To me, Christmas arrives like a blessing (and maybe to other people too, I guess).

That Christmas day, I was hungry. I went where my family and neighbors were cooking and asked for food. My neighbors were all cooking outside under a nice shade provided by a tree. They were using pots and pans just like Americans do — except there is no microwave and no oven. (The oven is the sun because it’s very hot in Kenya.) I was given Chai and maandazi (East African donuts) to eat. “Oh yes! Yummy,” I thought to myself. Chai is tea in English. In Kenya, we make very good tea. The sweetness is the best part of Chai and also the spices in it. Anyways, I ate all the food I was given. Then I waited for lunchtime to come, and to fill the time until lunch, I sought out my friends. We played different types of games such as hide-and-seek, which meant I hid in the thorny bushes with no shoes. I did not mind it. I was used to getting poked with thorns on my feet, and whenever they poke me nowadays, I know they just make me stronger. Afterward, we ran around and played soccer, which in Kenya is called football.

When lunchtime arrived, I ate a lot of chapatti (flat bread) and beans under the tent with my friends. During this time, we were also chatting with each other and making jokes about life. I did not realize that I was full so I kept eating more and more food. When I finished, my stomach was as hard as a drum. “Great, now I can’t even run around!” I thought to myself. I was too full to move.

Finally, nighttime came. I fell asleep so fast. Then, later, rumble, rumble. I woke up in the middle of the night and looked around in confusion. “What is the problem!” I asked myself. I could not figure out what was happening to me and why my stomach was growling. I decided I needed to go to the bathroom — quickly — and went to my sleeping mother. “Mom, mom wake up,” I said to her. “I need to go to the bathroom.” I wanted my mom to take me to the bathroom. In Lwala, the bathrooms are not inside the house. Instead they sit outside and away from the house. Our bathroom stood about 60 paces from our house. After one minute of calling to my mom, I became impatient and decided to run to the bathroom as fast as I could. I was so scared, and I thought someone might come out of nowhere and scare me or maybe someone would kill me. Those thoughts were just my imagination creating monsters that didn’t exist, but that’s why I was always scared at night. I don’t even know how I went to the bathroom and finished my business before my mother was dressed. I ran away from the bathroom and upon reaching the door to our house, I found my mom waiting and asking me where I was. I told her that I already had gone to the bathroom. She was so surprised by how fast I could move. Even today, my siblings love to bring up this incident and love to laugh about it. “Those were glory days,” I say to them.

That Christmas taught me a very important lesson, and from that day on, I decided to sleep naked. So, in case I have to go to the bathroom, I don't have to remove my clothes, and at least I save a few seconds. I also learned that I shouldn’t eat too much — even when it is Christmas day. But despite the tummy troubles, that remains the best Christmas I ever celebrated.





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SyracuseWriter said...
Jan. 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm
What at wonderful piece — evocative, telling, funny, touching.
 
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